Storm downs power lines, trees

Changing fall weather causes minor damage

vpatton@mercedsunstar.comOctober 23, 2012 

It was a symbolic end to summer Monday, as moderate winds and light rains were reported in Merced County, causing many residents to temporarily lose power.

PG&E attributed the change in weather patterns to causing five power failures in the Merced area. Around 10:30 a.m. Monday, about 10,000 people were without power. One of the largest disruptions was caused by downed power poles on North Highway 59 and Yosemite Avenue.

Some power poles caught fire. By 5 p.m. Monday, 2,245 customers in Merced were still without power, said Denny Boyles, a PG&E spokesman.

Traffic on North Highway 59 was closed for several hours because of the fallen power lines.

Residents in various parts of the county reported fallen trees as a result of the moderate winds.

The change in weather conditions was due to two storm systems that moved through the area Sunday evening, according to Jim Dudley, National Weather Service meteorologist.

Winds of 44 mph were reported in the area, in addition to the small amount of rain, Dudley said.

Meteorologists expect mostly overcast skies to continue Tuesday with a 30 percent chance of rain in the morning.

Dudley said there's a chance of rain Wednesday, with a high temperature of 67 and a low of 45, because of another storm system dropping into the area.

"But it does dry out past that. From Thursday and beyond we're looking at mostly clear, fair weather returning," he said.

In the southern Sierra Nevada, the California Highway Patrol issued a chain warning for Highway 168 near Shaver Lake. Yosemite National Park was expecting about 8 inches of snow above 6,000 feet.

Tioga Pass and Glacier Point Road were closed at 10 p.m. Sunday, but officials intended to assess conditions on both as weather improves.

Forecasters were calling for up to 2 feet of snow at the highest elevations in the northern Sierra Nevada.

"It looks like Mother Nature threw us our first snowball," said Rochelle Jenkins of Caltrans, which was enforcing chain controls above 4,300 feet on I-80.

A winter storm warning above 5,500 feet was in effect until 5 a.m. Tuesday. The heaviest snowfall was expected on Monday, though snow showers were likely into Tuesday night, said Karl Swanberg, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Sacramento.

More widespread precipitation was expected to move across Northern California on Wednesday.

Elsewhere around the state, a tornado touched down 40 miles north of Sacramento. Only minor damage was reported when it hit at 3:15 p.m. near Yuba City.

There were several other reports of funnel clouds north of Sacramento, but no others touched down, said National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Kurth.

City Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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